Interview of the Day: ‘Only way to fill the skill gap is to have a good mentor’

What roles are typically offered by advertising companies?
In a people based business like ours, employers are always on a look out for good talent. I don’t think there is ever a time when we do not have a position for a creative person or someone talented. That’s the way our businesses work. While we often here the term ‘hiring freeze’ in bigger agencies, if there is a person who applies and truly has the potential to become the next big creative star in the organisation the company will make place for him. This is true for roles like copy writers, designers and strategy. However, for a client servicing role, requirement comes and goes. The five roles which are usually offered are – copy writers, designers, strategy, client servicing, and business development.

Where on one hand there is always a requirement for creative and strategy people in advertising companies, for the role of client servicing there is requirement whenever there is a new account on board. For client servicing or business development roles we
look for experienced people, but for creative roles we also hire fresh talents.

Explain the kind of functions involved in these roles?
Client servicing normally include day to day operations; they do coordination internally as well as for various clients that are active.

Categories & functions

Copy Writers: These are the people who are responsible for coming up with creative ideas

Designers: They give shape or form to the ideas generated by the copy writers

Strategy: Based on a one liner brief given by the strategy person, copy writers and designers start their work.
Prior to the strategy person, it’s the client servicing person who identifies the need with the client and brings the strategy guy to brief the requirement.

Business Development: These people work closely with the client servicing group.

What is the scope of growth within the organisation?
There are certain people who move from a trainee position to client servicing and later into the strategy team; but this movement is not so much in the creative team. In order to grow people within the company we pay a lot of attention towards soft skills like attitude, intent to work and dependability. These skills go hand in hand with the hard skills that are required for the particular job role.

What skills do these advertising companies mostly look out for in a candidate?
For the role of client servicing one has to be extremely organised as he/ she will be managing the day-to-day requirement of the client in order to run the marketing programmes better than the clients. Besides, a good understanding of the client/ agency’s business is also equally important for business development and strategy roles.

According to you, is there any skill gap? Are there any solutions to fill the gap?
There is a huge skill gap. Most people we hire, either from smaller or bigger agencies, believe that client servicing is equivalent to operations; they forget that they are advertising men and not someone from operations. They tend to forget that their business is more in the consumer’s mind than it is in the client’s mind. They get lost in everyday transaction. When we hire someone from bigger agencies, for the first few months we help making them unlearn what they have learnt earlier; or what they believe is their priority.

Only way to fill this gap is to have a good mentor. Only a mentor can teach you how to think – the client will make you do what he wants you to do, but if you really want to do what the client demands, you need to know it first and only a mentor can do that.

What are the requirements for the client servicing professionals to step out into the market and interact with their clients?
It is important to keep your ears and eyes open all the time. The ability to be anywhere and soak in information is crucial for this group of people. For this, as an organisation, we often put these people in a corner and ask them hard questions and make them think – over a period of time this becomes a practice.

We follow a first stage consumer research before pulling someone out and putting him in the market. For understanding the product from a consumer’s point of view there is a formal research based methodology that we use internally. That typically takes its own time – depending on the client as research designs change based on the problem and need. As far as people are concerned, some people make it in two months; others never do and become operations specialists.

What kind of hiring pattern do you foresee in the second half of 2013?
There are mixed reviews from industry experts in this regard. The inflation will definitely hit the consumers’ spending ability and hence the spending ability at the company’s end in terms of advertising. So it will have an adverse effect on the industry. Don’t think it’s the brightest time for hiring in this sector.